Teachers provide a reality check to the grandest of visions.

The grand vision of our time is that every student should go to college. If everyone goes to college, everyone will have high wages. Poverty will end because everyone went to college.

This is fallacious reasoning. If everyone has a college diploma, then a college diploma will be as valuable as a high school diploma is today. The more diplomas there are, the more they become an entry-level requirement. As readers have noticed in my recent blogs, college graduates who work at Apple stores are making $12 an hour or less. Another blog told the story of a young woman with a two-year degree who was standing in line hoping to get a job as an usher or a food vendor at a sports stadium in Brooklyn. She has little choice because half of all African-Americans in New York City are unemployed (Mayor Bloomberg, please notice).

A teacher wrote this in response to the latter blog:

As a high school special ed teacher in California, I have been shocked at how strongly the culture of “we all must attend college” has affected my students. 17-year-old students who read on a second grade level believe they have to attend college to be happy and successful human beings. They come to me with this expectation, which has been reinforced by their culture, their families, and even the schools they attend, which espouse the popular college education for all attitude.These kids often do not have the emotional and daily living skills to hold down any job. It is my job to somehow teach them those skills, while also teaching them the core subject matter and helping them transition into the adult world. Part of that transitioning involves setting goals, and almost invariably, one of their goals is to attend college. When I suggest that maybe they also consider other options that could be equally fulfilling, it’s as if I’m trying to swipe their dreams away from them.We aren’t serving anyone well by sending kids this message that college is a requirement for success and happiness in America. We need truck drivers and plumbers and carpenters too–all of which are worthwhile and potentially fulfilling professions, especially when they are performed in a culture that values all its workers.